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Webtoon launches Yonder, a new serialized fiction app

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Webtoon, the company behind the storytelling platform Wattpad and its namesake online comics portal, launched a new app on Thursday offering serialized fiction that readers can purchase and read one chapter at a time.

The app, Yonder, is launching with more than 700 titles in genres including romance, mystery, science fiction, and fantasy, and the company plans to spend at least $2 million per year to acquire content. Unlike Wattpad and Webtoon, which invite anyone to contribute to their own stories and comics, Yonder is focused on providing premium titles to readers.

“We are highly curated,” said Sue Johnson, Yonder’s chief content officer. “Every single thing that appears on Yonder has been hand-selected for us.”

[Image: courtesy of Webtoon]

Serialized fiction itself is nothing new: Celebrated authors from Charles Dickens to F. Scott Fitzgerald famously published their novels in installments in magazines, and the approach has even seen a resurgence in the era of premium newsletters. Yonder isn’t even the first online serialized fiction platform—Amazon, for one, has a similar offering, called Kindle Vella—but the upstart’s creators are betting that its well-curated exclusives and easy-to-use interface will make it a hit with readers.

“Historical romance, billionaire romance, werewolf romance—that’s going to do well, that’s really the low-hanging fruit for us,” Johnson says.
Romance author Ivy Smoak, whose books have sold more than three million copies, will be making her first foray into paranormal fiction on the platform, with the vampire tale Bitten by Desire. “I actually had this idea in my head for a paranormal romance story about vampires for years,” Smoak says. “Yonder contacted me, and that’s what they were looking for, so it just felt like perfect timing.” Smoak, who got her start in serialized storytelling, says the format reminds her of her youth, waiting for the latest episodes of TV favorites like friends.

[Image: courtesy of Webtoon]

The platform will also feature plenty of science fiction, including the internet-favorite subgenre known as LitRPG, which features characters immersed (or trapped) in virtual role-playing games. Notably, Yonder will offer Darkness ItselfSean Platt and David Wright’s sequel to their hit sci-fi horror novel Yesterday’s Gone.

The Yonder app, available for iOS and Android, lets readers scroll through a display of available titles, organized by genre, and into promotional categories like “trending” and “editor’s choice.” Readers purchase packages of virtual coins to spend on titles, similar to some video games, with coins bought in bulk priced slightly less. (A chapter of a typical book costs about 25 cents.)

Various promotions offer rewards for frequent visitors to the app, like titles that allow readers to unlock a free chapter a day, or content made available outside the paywall for a limited amount of time.

“One of the things that the team is really good at is building an engaging experience that keeps people on the platform and keeps them reading,” says Annie Stone, Yonder’s head of content acquisition.

The Yonder team anticipates certain genres will perform particularly well, based on what’s been popular across other platforms. The platform will focus solely on serialized fiction, Johnson says, so readers shouldn’t expect to find nonfiction, comics, poetry, or any other literary format. But the company anticipates that that will be more than enough for an audience looking for quick, quality reads.

“This is really the next chapter in storytelling,” says Stone.

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